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God of War: Chains of Olympus - updated hands-on

If you've missed berserk Spartan sociopath Kratos since his last appearance in God of War II, take heart: the albino murder machine is stomping his way back into the spotlight on March 4, in God of War: Chains of Olympus for the PSP. Today, Sony sent us a near-finished version of the game, and after playing through a couple levels (hey, they're big), we've got a few things to share.

Created jointly by Sony's Santa Monica Studios and Ready at Dawn (makers of Daxter, also known as The First Really Good PSP Game), God of War: Chains of Olympus is a prequel to the first God of War, set during the years that Kratos served as an agent of the Greek gods. As Kratos, you'll brutalize your way through whatever gets in your path using the Blades of Chaos, a pair of short swords attached to Kratos' arms by whiplike chains; in short, it's a lot like the previous two entries in the series.

It's also just as brutal and almost as pretty. The game runs smoothly and looks great, and Kratos' attacks pack almost as much visceral punch in Chains of Olympus as they did on the PS2. The only real complaint we have with controlling him so far is with his rolling dodge, which on the PS2 was as simple as flicking the right analog stick. Here, however, it's done by holding down both shoulder buttons and flicking the analog nub, which takes just enough thought to be slower than the split-second reaction time needed to duck some of the enemies' attacks.

As the game begins, Kratos is sent to the city of Attica to destroy an evil creature brought by the invading Persian army: the Basilisk. This Basilisk doesn't turn anything to stone with its gaze, but it is an enormously ugly, fire-breathing beast that could probably give the Cloverfield monster a run for its money. Throughout the siege of Attica, it'll pop up periodically to lunge at Kratos (after eating a huge Cyclops that bashes through a door and tries to squash the Spartan), be shot at by a huge ballista and finally show up for the requisite end-of-level-one boss fight against a gargantuan behemoth.

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